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Apr 6, 2011

Victory coach confident of ACL progression

Melbourne Victory caretaker coach Mehmet Durakovic reckons his last-placed team can still make the Asian Champions League knockout phase after a fighting draw against group leader Tianjin Teda.

The 1-1 draw in China on Tuesday night, secured with a second half Kevin Muscat goal, earned Victory's first point of the tournament.

It left them six points behind Tianjin and five adrift of second placed Korean side Jeju United, with just the top two of the four teams advancing after six round robin games.

Durakovic, who replaced Ernie Merrick following Victory's 5-1 loss to Gamba Osaka last month, was bullish about their prospects despite their lowly position at the halfway stage of the group phase.

He said he was proud of their performance although disappointed that they missed some second half chances - having played against 10 men for the final 15 minutes after Tianjin captain Marko Zoric was sent off.

"A win would have been a fantastic result and we deserved more than a draw, but it's in our hands," Durakovic told AAP before leaving China.

"We'll go home and prepare for the home game against these guys on (April 20).

"If we can get a couple of wins under our belt, it's open to everybody."

Melbourne play two of their three remaining games at home.

Durakovic said playmaker Carlos Hernandez was limping after the "horrendous tackle" by Zoric, which earned the Serbian defender his red card.

Zoric gave Tianjin a first half lead from a corner and the hosts also hit the woodwork before halftime.

Victory hardly created a chance before the break, but the halftime introduction of Robbie Kruse alongside fellow Socceroos striker Archie Thompson made Melbourne the more dangerous team.

With Leigh Broxham, Grant Brebner and Hernandez working hard in midfield and Muscat and Adrian Leijer marshalling the defence, Melbourne was good value for their point.

"Everybody played absolutely phenomenal, I couldn't be prouder of them," Durakovic said.

Youngsters like goalkeeper Tando Velaphi and defender Matthew Foschini justified Durakovic's decision to start them, by producing assured performances.

"It was good, I enjoyed the challenge," he said.

"Hopefully I'll be able to get some more game time to repay the faith Mem showed in me.

"The group has been galvanised by this result.

"To come away to a place like this, a pretty hostile environment, to get a draw and be unlucky not to get three points, I think the group has taken a lot away from this and can build on it for the rest of the group stage."

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